MUNSTER — On Sunday afternoon, family and friends gathered at Munster High School to watch almost 350 seniors graduate.
Graduate and senior class president Shriya Iyer reminisced with the class of 2021 about the fears of freshman year, the pandemic’s disruption to their junior and senior years and the way that people with AT&T can never seem to get service in the building.
"After four years together, we are gathered here today for our commencement," she said. "As we reflect back on our time at MHS we have come to realize that even in the throes of disappointing outcomes, the class of 2021 rose to the occasion with great optimism and hope. We are a cohort defined by accomplishment, persistence and character."
While some of them got to fulfill their dreams of attending class in pajamas every day because of the pandemic, she said they also found non-traditional ways to have experiences together like virtual pep rallies, a 1980s workout day on the football field and prom in a parking lot.
Graduate Cynthia Chockalingam spoke about the future and the way she and her fellow graduates will change the world. Early in her speech, Chockalingam noted that while none of them are president of the United States, that’s just because none of them are 35 years old yet.
But, she told them, it isn’t about the size of their future desks or any future job title they may hold. What’s important is maintaining a sense of humility.
She gave her fellow graduates this charge: be like an elephant with big ears to listen and a small mouth. Listening, she said, should be followed up with empathy and understanding — like they were often given if they logged on to online class a minute or two late.
In his opening speech, Principal Michael Wells shared a similar sentiment. He told the graduates that life’s gravity will never stop pulling — like they witnessed with the pandemic — but they can extend grace to themselves and others.
"Remember how you felt when you were shown grace this year," he said.
School board president John Doherty told the graduates that they have many people to thank for reaching this special moment: their teachers, the custodial staff, their families and their classmates for shaping them into who they are today. He encouraged them to show their gratitude by serving and giving back to others.
For the class gift, senior class vice president Maureen VanMatre presented a check for the school to purchase 3D printers for the new maker space.
The 170 or so students that walked across the stage at The Pavilion at Wolf Lake Saturday comprised the final graduating class of Gavit, which will close to make way for the new Hammond Central High School.